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Garrow: No question Major Ridge home and Lavender trading post built around 1817

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The original grant for the excavations at Chieftains did not include enough money to analyze everything that was found, according to Garrow. He did analyze most of the ceramics on his own during the 1970s, but told the crowd a 2009 Trail of Tears grant helped to actually analyze and put together all of the items found at the site, many of which had been stored in an old garage on the grounds.

The recovery of window glass led Garrow to conclude that the home was built in 1817 and an addition was completed sometime in the 1820s. A site across what is now Riverside Parkway was determined to have been slave quarters built around 1828.

Garrow said that the old road leading past the Ridge plantation, now Riverside Industrial Park Road, would have offered visitors a glimpse of the slave quarters, then the house itself, the trading post and of course, Ridge’s ferry on the Oostanaula River.

“A visitor would have immediately seen evidence of Major Ridge’s wealth,” Garrow said.

The majority of the artifacts recovered from the site came from an area outside Lavender’s store, and a slight drop off toward the river. “It would not have been unusual to pitch trash out the back door and that’s what happened here,” Garrow said.

Garrow said the large amount of broken ceramics was probably due to breakage in transit for sale at Lavender’s store. “This is what didn’t make to the shelves,” said Garrow. The ceramics were traced to manufacturers in England, including Davenport, Stevenson and Clewes. He said that later studies of ceramics from the Midwest following removal indicated a lot of fine Davenport ceramics.

Garrow said there was evidence of a lot of cups and saucers, along with a set of 12 plates that were identical and the only ones that showed evidence of actual use, with scratches that had been likely made by knives and forks. Silver spoons with the initials GL, for George Lavender, and JR, for John Ridge, were also recovered from the site.

The noted archaeologist said he was surprised at how little glass used to hold alcohol was found at the site. “That was unusual for the period,” Garrow said.

Further evidence linking the site to construction in 1817 was later found in an article in the American Pharmaceutical Journal written by Roberts Battey’s father in 1857. Garrow said that Lavender’s store operated for 20 years and Lavender left Rome in 1837. He said Lavender’s store also served as the U.S. Post Office for Head of Coosa, at least from 1831 to 1835. Head of Coosa was the original Cherokee name for the Rome area before the city was founded in 1835.

During the question and answer session following his presentation, Garrow said he believes that Ridge and Lavender had a strained relationship.

“Ridge threatened to sue Lavender at one point,” Garrow said.  “He accused Lavender of poisoning his hogs.”